Greece Targets Illegal Operators As Online Market Continues To Grow

October 30, 2023
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The head of the Greek gambling regulator has called on government authorities to help address the “significant” losses in revenue to illegal gambling.
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The head of the Greek gambling regulator has called on government authorities to help address the “significant” losses in revenue to illegal gambling.

Speaking at the Economist Government Roundtable in Athens on October 26, Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) president Dimitris Ntzanatos said: "The online gambling market is growing dynamically in Greece”, but “the losses to society and the economy from illegal gambling are significant”.

During his panel discussion, Ntzanatos gave an overview of the current Greek gambling market, stating that online gambling revenue more than doubled in five years from €437m in 2019 to €889m in 2023, according to a HGC press release.

Greece’s online gambling market has been regulated since 2012, to a limited degree. Secondary regulations launching the formal licensing process for online gambling were adopted on August 5, 2020, allowing all gambling operators situated in Greece or another EU/EEA state to apply for an online gambling licence.

Despite this resulting in a surge in online gambling revenue and contributions to public funds, Ntzanatos warned that illegal gambling providers are creating “unfair competition” in the market and there is a “need for an organised and methodical response to the extensive and continuously growing delinquency and the risks it poses for society and the public interest”.

"Government, independent authorities and providers must support collaborative actions for safe play and dealing with problems and social impacts,” he concluded.

Harry Theoharis, deputy minister of finance for tax policy, said on the panel that a number of taxes increased in recent years to help the country get out of its recent “financial crisis”, including on gross gaming revenue (GGR) and a tax on players' winnings.

“During the same decade, technology also changed. We have new modes of playing and gambling has become a lot less physical [land-based] than what it has been," he said.

Additionally, Theoharis said gambling oversight of the industry has changed a lot since 2012 when the gambling regulator was first set up. 

“We are reviewing the current taxation regime to make sure it is helping. The main goal we want to reach is to lower the number of grey market games played by our citizens with unlicensed and unregulated operators without disturbing the revenue streams we are currently enjoying,” Theoharis said.

The Greek government is happy with the level of taxation on gambling and does not want to increase it or lower it, according to the minister, who added that the “only aim” is to “ensure we support fair competition because unregulated operators mean competition that is not fair and for us that is a cardinal sin".

Separately, on October 20, Greek gambling giant OPAP announced that it had launched a petition against the Hellenic Competition Commission’s recent decision to fine it €24.6m for leveraging its exclusivity over certain gambling products to restrict competition in other service areas.

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